I don’t really like kids. Oh sure, I love my own kids, but you know how there’s one house on the block where all the kids play? I hate it when it’s mine.

So, when Ilsa begged me to let her do a Camp Fun & Games all by herself, I’m not sure what possessed me to agree with it. I’m pleading temporary insanity, only unfortunately it’s turning out to be permanent.

A little history. Last summer when we were in the States, we stayed with my friend Heather and her 5 children. Yep—that was 8 kids in one house, ranging in age from 1 to 13 ½, plus 4 grownups, ranging in age from late 30s to early 40s. Sometimes Heather and I had to take our coffee up to the treehouse, where we could simultaneously hide from the children and keep an eye on them.

Heather has awesome kids, and I’m not just saying that so she’ll continue to let me take over her basement and crash my borrowed van through her fence with a wild abandon. Her oldest, Hali, is bright and creative and organized. Last summer, she created the original “Camp Fun & Games” and it was most impressive. Everything about it was realistic, from the parental permission slip I had to sign (told you it was accurate) to the chorus of “Thank you, Camp Cook!” at the end of every meal. Elliot, 11, got to be a junior counselor and that meant he got to teach a class—light saber fighting, I think it was, or possibly legos, or some other useful ability. Hali, who gets her organization skills from her mother (which means she has so many they just ooze out of her; she can’t help it; when she was barely 2 she made her own bed without being asked), drew up a schedule that balanced trampoline time with rest time and craft time. Honestly, the girl’s amazing.

Ilsa watched and learned. Sort of. I will say right now that she gets many of her organizational skills from her mother, which usually means you can’t see the floor of her room. (Although you can see my floor. At least most of it) The kids are on Spring Break now for 2 weeks, 2 weeks in which I am not only NOT on Spring Break but am dealing with students saying to me, “What topic would you suggest for my thesis paper?” when the deadline is theoretically May 3rd.  So my resistance was down when Ilsa begged me to let her have a “Camp Fun & Games” at our house. She promised that she would spend all her own money, that she would do all the organization. All I had to agree with was allowing her to do it. With much trepidation, I said okay.

She drew up elaborate invitations, spelling out the dress code (red and blue), who was invited, what was planned. She made up a schedule lasting 24 hours, down to the last minute—some activities were from 5:10 to 5:40, for example. Her inexperience showed up in some of these details—she included FOB time (Flat On Bunk; obviously designed to give camp counselors a break), but she had it just after the campers arrived. Cooking class (Elliot making brownies) was supposed to be at 8:30 a.m., a time when the camp cook didn’t even plan to be up yet, much less be finished with breakfast.

It started out with just 2 girl campers, but ended up with 3 boy campers coming along as well, for a total of 8 screaming children. First each of my boys wanted to invite a friend, but then that meant that one of the girl camper’s brothers was left out. It got awkward. I took a deep breath and invited him too.

I had to take them shopping instead of grading thesis papers. No one in town had marshmallows. They do have Gatorade right now though (exceptionally; first time we’ve seen it here) so Elliot spent all of his money to buy each kid their own bottle (American product = expensive). Abel bought a tin of pineapple so I’d make ham and pineapple pizza. (See how I’m getting more and more involved in this?) Ilsa bought a lot of candy as “prizes.”

The children arrived right! on! time! and starting screaming almost immediately. Donn and I at first played the Are They Gone Yet? game which is when you hide behind closed doors, put in the earplugs and practice taking deep breaths. I like this game a lot—I first starting playing it when I had 3 babies and over the years I’ve gotten really good at it. Unfortunately, my children have also gotten better at finding me.

Soon it was time to spend hours and hours in the kitchen making pizza. The kids followed Ilsa’s clues to a treasure (candy), played Mummies and the winners got candy, and, in general, ate candy. Then they wanted Gatorade. It took a long time to decide what movie to watch.

Ilsa wasn’t the youngest of the children, but she is the smallest and among the youngest. That made her necessary bossiness difficult. Foreseeing this, she had drawn up a list of rules: No making fun of other people. You have to listen (underlined twice in different colours) to the camp director. You have to be nice. You have to be either happy or sad. There was also a list of penalties for rule-breakers: They lost their vote on which movie to watch, they had to sit out the games. When Erik, in spite of having pinky-sworn not to, announced in front of everyone that Haley was in love with Oliver, the girls sat in judgment on him and he was horsewhipped on the steps and drummed out of their club. Basically, that is. (I’m not making this up—I saw the paperwork. He’s lucky it wasn’t pistols at dawn. These girls are serious)

The hours dragged on. And on. Finally they all went to bed, only to get up far too early in the morning. No calisthenics; just TV. (What kind of a wimpy camp is this?) I think they played Nintendo. I don’t know. I just know there was a lot of noise. I drank a lot of really strong black coffee.

The morning dragged on. I tried to correct papers and put out fires, such as when Jr. Counselor Abel decided to do Lego Workshop instead of the Art that the campers had signed up for and the Camp Director got really upset, or when Jr. Counselor Elliot got very pedantic during his Cooking Class and started giving out awards and saying things like, “Now, who can tell me what Erik is doing wrong?”

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Part of cooking class was copying the recipe for home

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Haley and Bethany enjoy the rewards of cooking class

Camp Fun & Games lasted 24 hours. We managed to make it through campers telling me they didn’t like what I was cooking (a. who doesn’t like fried eggs? And b. you can’t get away with that at a REAL camp) and through the schedule getting all messed up and the bigger boys constantly sneaking away to play Gameboy, which I imagine is pretty typical even at the real camps these days. Finally, by 3:30, we were waving goodbye to the last of the campers. The house was still standing. Oddly enough, nearly every camper left a pair of shoes behind. Was this some weird sort of superstition to make sure they could come back?

If so, it won’t work. The insanity brought on by 24 hours of merriment may be permanent, but one thing is certain: we are never ever doing a repeat. Ever. I really mean it. Pinky-swear.

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Dance Class; Ilsa is in the middle

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Jordan going off to hide during  cache-cache-loup, aka hide-n-seek. The purpose of some of these pics is to show my house to those of you (Shannon) who have asked to see it. The walls are empty because Donn currently has a photo exhibition at the National Museum–more on this later.

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